By Jeremy Myers
If you join us for worship at First Baptist Church on any given Sunday morning, whether online or in person, you will notice a coffee mug on the podium next to my Bible.
It is usually filled with coffee, which I pour into said mug right before the service begins. I wait until the last possible moment in hopes that when we are done singing and I begin preaching, the contents of the mug will be at a temperature somewhere north of lukewarm.
In general, it is a losing battle. It never ceases to amaze me how fast the near-boiling-hot liquid in a porcelain cup will conform to the temperature of the room around it.
There are few things worse than lifting a cup to your lips with the expectation of a refreshing sip of your favorite heated beverage only to discover it is no longer heated. Jesus himself noted that lukewarm beverages, those that had adjusted to the temperature of the air around them, made him want to “spew.”
But at times, we have to do what we have to do. So as I prepare to preach, throat parched from singing several songs, I cowboy up and choke down the abomination that is in the cup before me.
Throughout the Bible, a cup is used to depict a person’s life. Sometimes, one’s cup is filled with blessings, and at other times, it is filled with hardships. It was an image Jesus used several times to describe the difficulties that lay before him and those that would be faced by his followers, as well.
Arguably the most well-known reference is when Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane just before being betrayed by Judas, resulting in his crucifixion on a Roman cross. The crucifixion is, along with the resurrection, the definitive moment of the Christian faith. It is the reason for which Jesus came, and he knew it. Jesus without question felt the anxiety of the moment.
As he anticipated the difficulties ahead, he prayed, “Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” It feels almost wrong to say, but Jesus was less than thrilled with where he knew his life was headed. He pleaded with God the father to provide him with a better cup to consume but humbly and obediently assented to accepting whatever God had in store for him.
Over the last several months, I know many of us have prayed similar prayers. I know I sure have. Even on a recent morning as I considered another week of difficult decisions, uncomfortable interactions and the uncertainty of the days before me, I found myself begging God for some better options.
While the wording we use may be different, the sentiment is the same: We want a more pleasant cup to drink. The temperature of the one we’re holding right now matches the temperature of the world around us, and it’s all sorts of unpleasant.
And while we may not be facing the horrors of a wooden cross and the salvation of the world isn’t riding on our willingness to submit to God’s will for our lives, the suffering and the struggle are real.
God never leaves our cup empty, though. And though our cup be filled with difficulty and discomfort today, it can easily be filled with blessing once we’ve finished what’s before us.
The cup of crucifixion led to a cup overflowing with eternal life, made available to all who would trust in the life-giving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When we celebrate communion, we are reminded of the cup of suffering that Christ drank and the cup of life that we now receive.
In more personal and practical terms, Paul noted the trials of today make way for the blessings of eternity. He writes, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us eternal glory that outweighs them all.”
I don’t know why God has allowed us to face the difficulties of these days. I do know that I’m not enjoying it. Much like the anticipation of drinking the lukewarm abomination that sits next to my Bible on Sunday morning, I don’t look forward to drinking the cup before me.
I do, however, trust the God who placed the proverbial cup there. I also believe God will accomplish something of consequence in and through us if we trust him and humbly accept what he places before us.
So while I’m absolutely praying for God to take this cup from us, I’m also willing to pray along with Jesus, “Yet not what I will, but what you will be done.”
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected]